The World According to Tiff Sniff

Meandering ponderings and wonderings on the state of things.


Okay, I promised to post the thoughts that have been running around in my head since reading waiterrant's post, so here they are. If you didn't read my last post, take the time to read the article linked there, first, or some of this won't make sense. At least it will have more of an impact.

All my life I've heard about compassion, and I have a pretty good understanding of what it means. Thanks to my high school Latin, I know that it literally means "to feel with" someone. In other words, to take their pain and suffering on as your own. We usually express this in kind acts, words, prayers, and so on. Very easy to do, right? Well, sometimes.

The Coulstons come and talk about their ministry in Kenya? I'm broken inside, moved to give a little more, and consume a little less myself, for a time, anyway. A loved one is hurt or sick? I can pray, send a card, visit, or send donuts. When someone you love unconditionally is in pain, it's hard not to be moved, and to be spurred into action. People suffering on the other side of the world, and friends and family we hold dear are easy to love this way.

But what about the in-betweens? In the waiter's story, it seems that he thought the poor girl, Maria, missed out on compassion. For the most part, she probably did. But as she lay there dying, she knew someone was trying to help her, to ease her suffering, and his compassion toward her probably put her at ease in her last few minutes, even if he couldn't alleviate her thirst. It's the rest of the time that gets to me.

Most of us don't deal with AIDS patients every day, but some of us do. Like the nurse, it's easy to become conditioned to the suffering around us every day, all the time. In that situation, it seems particularly heinous, because we now have all seen what AIDS can do. So we are indignant that she could sit there and be so uncaring.

But how often are we the same way? I work in the juvenile court mostly, and no case there ever has a happy ending, not really. If your family is solid and in good shape, you'll never set foot in there. No, the people I see every day are from broken relationships. Short sexual encounters that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy? Now you're in child support court, having to be ordered to help buy your kid food to eat. I see, every day, cases of abuse, neglect, hatred, apathy, and all sorts of other things no child should ever experience, especially from a parent. Already I can feel myself becoming hardened to it. I'm beginning to take these child support cases in stride, which is great for my confidence and productivity, but do these men pick up on that? Do they think I'm cavalier toward them? I think I am. I'm not taking it as seriously as I once did. I'm still keeping them out of jail, which is my ultimate goal either way, but I think I've lost some of my compassion.

How do we avoid the burnout? Caring for people is hard work, when they don't appreciate it. When your kindness isn't acknowledged, when no matter how hard you work, more broken people pour into your life, when life isn't fair, and good people die and nasty people prosper, how do you keep from losing your emotion? How do you keep your caring side from shutting down in defense?

The other extreme is the priest's reaction, and I think we succumb to it as often as we become desensitized. The priest, when faced with a hard situation, walked away. Now, I'm not one to call doubt onto his choice; he very obviously took it seriously, and I'm sure it was the right decision for him. What hit me was that I often use those feelings as an excuse to avoid hard things, hurtful situations. I'm not sure that's any better than becoming insensitive to those situations.

This is an issue I'll be struggling with as long as I'm on this Earth, unless I decide to go the heartless-lazy-bitch path, which I pray I never do. I know as long as I am communing with God and His people, my heart will have a better chance of staying soft.

In the end, I'm glad that this story has made me think. Compassion is something we all "get", and is not something I've ever thought I would struggle to understand. But it is a concept that is difficult in application, and the waiter opened my eyes to that fact in a new way, so I am grateful for him.

I pray, in the end, that he will find peace with the God who showed him such horrors at a young age; I can see from the story, and his regular blogs, that he does have grace and compassion still, and I hope that I can learn to always do likewise.

0 Responses to “Compassion”

Post a Comment

© 2006 The World According to Tiff Sniff | Blogger Templates by GeckoandFly.
No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.
Learn how to make money online | First Aid and Health Information at Medical Health